“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” ~U2

This week’s article was “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Groenewald. Even though I am not inclined to pursue phenomenology as my research method, I still took something valuable away from this week’s article. I had never before considered some of the logistical challenges that a researcher could face, and several were outlined in this article. It seems like a researcher can’t just focus on lofty goals like furthering knowledge in a field but must also play the role of project manager, dealing with logistical concerns that, if executed poorly, could invalidate the research. For example, Groenewald says that the researcher needs to make sure that everything needed to “ensure that recording equipment functions well,” including back-ups of “batteries, tapes, and so on,” is handy (48). Also, in a research scenario where people are being interviewed and a lot of weight is being placed on their words, it is important to conduct interviews away from “background noise and interruptions” (Groenewald 48) and have the subjects review “a copy of the text to validate that it reflect[s] their perspectives regarding the phenomenon that was studied” (Groenewald 51). Although some of these considerations may seem obvious, I can see how some of these requirements could easily be overlooked when designing one’s research approach. The logistical stuff interests me more than Groenewald’s explanation of phenomenological research methods. After reading Groenewald’s article, I can’t imagine taking all of this on as a solo researcher on a phenomenological study. (But can I be a research project manager? Is that a thing? Just in case, I’m going to start stocking up on batteries and scouting quiet interview locations!)This blog post is shorter than my other ones, but I’ve read about half of next week’s reading already and I believe I’ll have more to say about discourse analysis in next week’s post. Just like my classmates, I am trying to figure out how to approach the research proposal. Each week, as I read a newly assigned article, I think maybe this will be the one, maybe the research method I’ll use is in this article, yet each week I end up thinking that it’s not quite right. This week continued that trend, but I have a flicker of hope in my heart that discourse analysis might be what I’ve been searching for.

An Exploration of Phenomenology as a Research Method

“A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Thomas Groenewald really got me thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of phenomenology as a research method and opened my eyes to the state of science and philosophy in modern times. Phenomenology is a very complex methodology and I appreciate the fact that this paper attempted to both justify its existence and explain its origins and inner workings.

Perhaps the first thing that jumped out at me from this paper was the excerpt Groenewald included from a book titled Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton: “The social order of European capitalism had been shaken to its roots by the carnage of the war and its turbulent aftermath. The ideologies on which that order had customarily depended, the cultural values by which it ruled, were also in deep turmoil. Science seemed to have dwindled to a sterile positivism, a myopic obsession with the categorizing of facts; philosophy appeared torn between such a positivism on the one hand, and an indefensible subjectivism on the other; forms of relativism and irrationalism were rampant, and art reflected this bewildering loss of bearings” (qtd. in Groenewald). This quote, I believe sums up the emergence of phenomenology as a research method and the current tumultuous state of the world in a few short sentences. According to Eagleton, following the First World War, the Western world had become disillusioned (the bright hopes that many had for the future–specifically in regard to technological progress–were shattered) and spiraled into nihilism and uncertainty. Scientists developed a positivistic view of the world (meaning that they viewed the world as a series of causes and effects with no room for subjectivity or theism) while philosophers divided into two camps: the positivistic and the subjective (those who do not believe in external truths). A German philosopher named Edmund Husserl, however, aimed to put an end to the identity crisis the world was facing via the creation of phenomenology. Husserl essentially combined positivism and subjectivity with this new methodology by asserting that concrete truths do exist within the consciousness of individuals. As an example, my enjoyment of apples is a concrete truth that can be studied as a phenomenon (obviously this is not the best example, but we’ll go with it anyhow). While my liking of apples could be defined as subjective (it is a choice isn’t it?) it is really not given the fact my conscious experience already inclines me to enjoy apples. I can argue with a stranger on the street about what the best fruit in the world is, but I cannot argue with my own thoughts, feelings, and senses. If one were to study this phenomenon–perhaps through a series of interviews–that study would be phenomenological.

While this seems quite straight forward, I can certainly see complications with phenomenology, the primary concern being that it is, in essence, the study of consciousness, and a researcher cannot involve themself in a murkier field than that. With that said, I appreciate how it at least tries to account for the absurd complexity of our species rather than glossing it over entirely with numbers or mythology. All in all, I am intrigued by phenomenology and believe that it will continue to captivate the interest of researchers going into the future.


Blog Notes

  • Research Update
    • I’m going to the library tomorrow to meet with one of the research librarians named Linda to get help with searching the database for articles related to my topic which is poetry performance for now.
  • Reading Notes
    • From the opening paragraph of the intro, I feel comforted.
      • Groenewald is expecting us to be novice researchers so he understands the need to go slow and break things down.
    • Groenewald says that in order to pick the best methodology for a research study, you have to know a bunch of different methodologies.
      • This is why we are doing the buffet taste test of different methodologies in this class.
    • Groenewald talks about how he was having a hard time finding sources on how to employ phenomenological methodology in research so he wants others to use this paper as a guide.
      • That’s wholesome. He even says the article is not an authority. He’s just saying hey I could have used this when I was doing my research, now future generations of researchers have something to help them. 
    • The explanation of what phenomenology is is interesting. Basically the only things that we can be absolutely certain about are things we experience ourselves.
      • Immediate experience above all else.
      • Sounds like going straight to the source. 
      • If you didn’t see or experience the phenomenon directly, show me someone who did and I will use their account in my research.
      • An example would be if you are doing a research study on depression. You would want to study people who are experiencing depression rather than someone who has a family member experiencing depression.
    • An interesting part of the article is when Groenewald tells us how he selected the research participants.
      • This really is a how to guide on the behind the scenes parts of research. 
      • Groenewald knows that his audience is novice researchers and he is trying to explain things such as selecting participants and I wonder if this is something that he wished more articles would do since he wrote this based on his unhappiness with researches on how to conduct phenomenological research.
    • I appreciate the article’s use of plain language.
      • Groenewald knows we are wide eyed budding researchers and that overly complicated terms would not be helpful.
      • I think it goes to show that you don’t always have to use complicated research terms to sound smart. There is definitely a time and place for them, but they can become overwhelming for a novice researcher.

Phenomenology parte dos!

Phenomenology part 2! This week’s assigned reading was A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated by Thomas Groenewald. This one was pretty cool. The transition between the phenomenology I did for my presentation and this one is very interesting. We are introduced to the origins of phenomenology and basically its roots. I am grateful for getting an understanding of phenomenology first hand and now taking us back to sort of a prequal if I may. As a writer but most importantly, a poet, I admired Thomas Groenewald for breaking down phenomenology. He said that we are all basically phenomenologists. Poets, painters, and just creativity in general. Specifically he said “ Poets and painters among us, however, understand very well their task of sharing by means of word and image, their insights with others – an artfulness that is also laboriously practiced by the professional phenomenologists” ( 44). Overall, this reading enlightened me further into the research method of real human experience. Especially when mentioning the philosophical reasonings with the “creator” of Phenomenology. Reading this article, as well as all of the presentations done by my peers so far has got me thinking about my own research method. By that I mean, my research proposal and the method that I will be using. I’m not entirely sure about what I want to do but I know what path I would like to take. I am thinking about researching something that I can relate to heavily. These are the three I’m gravitating towards but I am not sure which one is going to be the strongest. I would like your help 🙂 But, the only thing that worries me is having to go out of my comfort zone and perhaps interview people. I am not the best at socializing or coming up with non-triggering questions that will lead to significant findings but I guess thats why we’re all here to learn from each other. 

  1. Educators dealing with mental illness 
  2. Can trauma writing be an alternative to therapy and other medicinal practices?
  3. Why is writing a common outlet for individuals with traumatic experiences?

More Phenomenology

I almost forgot we were still discussing phenomenology, but I’m actually appreciative. Having read about it last week, I went into this reading feeling a bit more equipped and knowledgable for this. Here are my random thoughts!

First, I love that it gave historical context about phenomenology and everything encompassing. As someone who loves history, it was a treat learning about the origins of phenomenology.

“To arrive at certainty, anything outside immediate experience must be ignored, and in this way the external world is reduced to thecontents of personal consciousness.” (pg. 43) Husserl’s idea about the existence of objects was quite a headscratcher, but it made me lean into what I was reading. When people have these abstract thoughts, it makes me wonder how did they get to this point.

Random side note, but I love how paradigm was explained. To me, paradigm is one of those buzz words you kind of know, but aren’t confident enough to let it bleed into your vocabulary. The break down of it was so perfect, and again I loved that it added its origins.

“According to Hycner (1999, p. 156) “the phenomenon dictates the method (not vice-versa) including even the type of participants.”” (pg.45) Yes, yes, yes. There’s no one size fits all when conducting research, so of course the phenomenon should dictate how you navigate things. You should reflect on which method will bring out the most of the research.

“My central research question was: what is the contribution that co-operative education can make in the growing of talent of the South African people?” (pg.47) I love the topic of this study. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, I’m a teacher who loves reading and connecting things to education. The concept of co-operative education is so important, especially with older kids. This is a niche topic that has the makings of impactful work. That topic has the potential to be beneficial for all high schools and students.

“I recorded each interview on a separate cassette.” (pg.48) I almost forgot this was written in 2004, because a cassette?! What a blast from the past. Took me back to my early childhood, driving in my grandma’s car.

“The “term [analysis] usually means a „breaking into parts‟ and therefore often means a loss of the whole phenomenon…[whereas „explicitation‟ implies an]…investigation of the constituents of a phenomenon while keeping the context of the whole” (1999, p. 161).” (pg.49) This was incredibly interesting, and something I’ve never thought of. This is the kind of thinking that the research world needs. Language is so important, and I loved that this was brought up, because otherwise I don’t know if anyone would’ve picked up on this and what it does.

“Thereafter subjects received a copy of the text to validate that it reflected their perspectives regarding the phenomenon that was studied.” (pg.51) This is another reflection of the thoughtfulness of this study. It’s so easy for people to be misperceived or their words be misconstrued, so it’s so considerate to take an extra step to make sure people are accurately displayed. That’s precisely why this was in the section about its truth and validity.

Overall, this article highlighted important things about co-operative education and shed light on the gaps that still exist today. Even though this is a 20 year old article, it’s relevancy transcends time.

As pertaining to my research proposal, I’m slowly coming along. My topic of juvenile arthritis is quite niche, so finding research can be a challenge, since there isn’t too too much out there. However, I met with Craig and he directed me to some helpful databases that have been leading me in the right direction. So I’ve been sifting through articles, trying to find things I’d like to include in my literature review.

Let’s Talk Phenomenological Research Design & Ideas for My Research Proposal ~

~~ PART 1 ~~

Right away, specifically the first line of this research article, “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Thomas Groenewald, I instantly could agree, and can personally relate too, “Novice researchers are often overwhelmed by the plethora of research methodologies, making the selection of an appropriate research design for a particular study difficult (Groenewald, 42). I feel the weight of this line right now as I’m midst collecting sources and research on the topic concerning unconscious and conscious states and creativity. There are several underlying subfields I can tie into this topic, like suppressed childhood emotional trauma, and how such experiences impact the cognitive function of generating creative ideas. However, if I were to analyze the impact of “suppressed childhood trauma” on the conscious and unconscious functionating of generating and selecting creative ideas, this research inquiry question would involve more discomfort on behalf of the subjects, and would not be considered a “minimal risk” research study  

So, I continued to think on my central research topic idea (the human conscious levels & creativity). I re-arranged some of my inquiry questions so that they direct an understanding toward the creative writing processes or artistic-creative processes of college students who actively engage in a form of art-expression. Perhaps, my research subjects could be students from Kean University who actively practice and participate in some form of art expression, which could be writing, painting, drawing, crocheting, singing, or playing an instrument, creating pottery, or taking photos.

I would then maybe design survey questions and open-ended response questions that would essentially verbally walk me through their creative mental processes and how they prepare to connect with such cognitive states. I would have to spend a lot of time making sure that my survey questions are appropriately geared toward questioning the research phenomena I wish to understand. I would then do a deep analysis on the recorded answers to understand their cognitive creative processes and how their creative mental states impact their overall well-being or mental health (or how they feel about themselves after engaging in their form of art expression). I’ve also considered, perhaps, implementing an in-person observation, where I would observe my selected subjects in action while they compose or create their chosen form of art. I would have to pre-prepare specific categories to keep an eye out for during my in-person observations like their facial gestures, body language, the number of times paused for deeper thought and consideration, and their overall focus and attention span. I’ve gathered around 8 research articles (and conducted studies) on my topic of inquiry.

My research inquiry question went from  “How do unconscious thinking processes impact or directly affect the formation or selection of creative and innovative ideas and thoughts?”  to, “How does the unconscious processing of childhood trauma influence cognitive creative functioning and the emergence of creative ideas in adulthood?”  to then,“How does the unconscious creative processes of college students impact their overall mental health and wellbeing?”

I realized that studying internalized, suppressed trauma will be exceedingly difficult.  However, I’m still interested in how unconscious mind states or how unconscious processes impact the quality of creativity, and the generation of such ideas. For example, when I’m stressed because of arthritic pains or personal family issues, I find it much harder for me as a writer to locate ideas and search within for some sign of motivation or inspiration. So, with that established reality, my inquiry question now stands at: “How do unconscious thinking processes among college students at Kean University influence their cognitive creative functioning and the emergence of creative ideas in early adulthood? As a result, how do the unconscious creative processes of college students impact their overall mental health and wellbeing?”

Humans are creative beings filled with endless potential and curiosity. However, when confronted with the realities of life (etc., work, school, chores, personal responsibilities), the endless opportunity for creativity becomes very much limited. Hence, why I would love to investigate this research topic to understand the diversity in unconscious creative processes, and in hopes to find remedies or ways in which to help creative individuals re-connect with their form of art expression when under stress or any environmental turmoil.

~~ PART 2 ~~

Alrighty, a lot has already been said and if you’re still reading this blog post, you are super dope  I’m going to now direct my attention to this week’s selected research article, A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated” by Thomas Groenewald. First off, I appreciate how this research article’s aim is to educated novice researchers (like us) about the phenomenology method approach to research design and implementation. One of the main reasonings to why Groenewald conducted a research design that essentially functions as a researcher’s guide on conducting phenomenological research was because “[he even] experienced major difficulty in finding literature that provides guidelines on conducting phenomenological research” (43). So, technically, Groenewald’s research serves to fill the missing gap in literature regarding research teaching and learning practices on research methodology.

Phenomenology is a qualitative research approach that seeks to understand and describe the experiential, lived aspects of a particular phenomenon more deeply. It is evident that phenomenology seeks to understand beyond the external factors involved in a particular phenomenon, as Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) argued, “that people can be certain about how things appear in, or present themselves to, their consciousness” (Groenewald, 43). Interestingly enough, “To arrive at certainty, anything outside immediate experience must be ignored, and in this way the external world is reduced to the contents of personal consciousness. Realities are thus treated as pure ‘phenomena’ and the only absolute data from where to begin” (Groenewald, 43). I’ve noticed some similarities or connections between my research topic inquiry question, and the contents that make up Husserl’s philosophical method, or phenomenology. My topic question aims to analyze a conscious-subjective experience unique to one’s thinking patterns and forms of self-expression; therefore, perhaps, I could possibly use phenomenology as my chosen research method.

I’m resisting the urge to add more to this blog post, but I’d love to hear some feedback or advice on my research question & if ya’ll think I’m headed in the right direction. I feel like I’m blindly leading myself through all this research, and ahhh – I just don’t know . . .

**Link attached to image**


Francesca Di Fabio 🙂

track 09. phenomenology pt. ii

In “A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated,” Thomas Groenewald gives a brief history of phenomenology, describes his research paradigm, and then describes how he gathered data for his phenomenological research. A point made during the history section that resonated with me quite a bit was when Groenewald stated “…we are all born phenomenologists; the poets and painters among us, however, understand very well their task of sharing, by means of word and image, their insights with others -an artfulness that is also laboriously practised by the professional phenomenologist” (44). Reading this was a light bulb moment for myself as I never thought about how similar poetry is to the work a phenomenologist would do; it honestly makes the idea of attempting phenomenological research more appealing as it feels more familiar, and I feel I’d benefit from the use of my transferable skills. With both the recent sharing of Gianna Lepanto’s MA Thesis Proposal and Lit Review, as well as this sentence, I wonder if our research proposal for this class could be approached with a creative project in mind.

Another part of this article that helped make a phenomenological approach feel more feasible is the mention of “snowball sampling” as a method to find participants (46). Frankly, the last article left me at a bit of a loss when it came to the idea of finding participants; I may have even mentioned this as one of my concerns when in my TROIKA group with Thuy and Tyler. After all, not all of us could be so lucky as to know seven people willing to be so open for the specific study we’re attempting to undertake (let alone industry professionals in that field). I say that a bit in jest, but the idea of having to be “in the know” or “have connections” made me bemoan the idea of actively searching for individual participants; I imagined it to be like modern dating, but worse, because I would be much more distraught over my research being unable to continue than my dating life. Groenewald also mentioning that a sample size of about ten participants max “as sufficient to reach saturation” helps alleviate a previous concern I had with the previous article, namely that the sample size was “too small” (46). In retrospect, because of how intensively phenomenologists work with these participants, ten seems like a solid number to aim for, time and gatekeepers considered.

While writing this blog post, I listened to Frank Ocean’s visual album “Endless” (2016). It’s the project by him that I put on the least, so I’m trying to make up for lost time; funnily enough, I’ve seen this visual album less times than I’ve heard it, so maybe I should watch it the next time I want to put it on.